With my usual fast-flowing schedule on hold, I was so excited to truly dedicate time to myself and indulge in connecting with me, my thoughts, my wants, and aspirations. The new year was such ideal timing, and the perfect excuse to escape the hustle of London, back to my beloved Henley-on-Thames.
“…you will free your mind and connect to your inner self through yoga, an enlightening inner conscious writing session, a discussion around the importance of intention/affirmation/mantra, a Trataka (candlelight) meditation and of course lots of nourishing snacks filled with goodness to keep you going and an abundance of different teas. – Nayana Yoga”
Being a pretty intuitive person, I already had such high energy around the new year. 2016 was a great year for me, it was all about setting foundations and learning. And I can see 2017 being filled with positivity and progress.
The workshop was set into different stages: heart-opening Yoga, nourishing teas and treats, followed by meditation, and free-flow writing and discussion.
As each stage progressed, I could feel the usual social constructs and graces we all consciously or unconsciously adhere to slowly strip away until it was just….me.
Yoga & BREATHING
As a group of strangers bound in practice, we began a series of breathing exercises and heart-opening Yoga poses.
I regularly enjoy yoga practice as part of my working week, to keep up my physical and mental well-being. However this practice had a different intention and approach to my usual routine – it wasn’t a ‘Yoga work-out’, rather a carefully constructed series to relax and centre everyone.
Maddy introduced two breathing exercises, one I was familiar with; Nadi Shodhan Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing, and one I hadn’t tried before; straw breathing Pranayama.
Crying at Candles
Upon Maddy explaining the concept of ‘Trataka’, even I, who tries to always have an open-mind was taken-aback at the concept.
Looking intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point until tears are shed, is known as trataka by the acharyas. – Hatha Yoga Pradipika, 2:31
Our next activity in the workshop was to introduce the meditative practice of gazing at a candle flame until tears form. This of course sounds pretty drastic, self-punishing, and counter-meditative at first, and I did have my doubts as to whether I’d actually be able to make my eyes tear. But I was willing to try the practice and discover the effects.
Of course our self and social conscious side of the brain could think a room full of people, sitting, staring, and ‘crying’ at a candle sounds absolutely ridiculous. But it taught me to be absolutely present, patient, vulnerable, and focused.
There are numerous purported benefits of Trataka. If you’d like to discover more, a very informative article can be found at in5d
Nourishing Tea & Treats
Maddy is famous for always spoiling the attendees of her lessons, workshops, and retreats with delicious, hand-made, vegan treats to nourish the body. I couldn’t get enough of the warming, spicy ginger tea, the creamy cashew blueberry cheesecake, the indulgent peanut butter ‘cookie-dough’ bites, and the more-ish carrot cake bliss-balls.
“One of my favourite methods of connecting to my inner self was discovered in Canada nearly seven years ago. A way of writing that encouraged the critical part of the mind to ebb away and leave the true voice of the self pouring out on to paper. It’s much easier than it sounds but can be incredibly revealing and personal. – Maddy Brown, Nayana Yoga”
I was very curious to try free-writing. Being a literature lover, writing is something I’ve always prided myself upon as a personal strength.
But writing, for me is an iterative mix of thinking, planning, free-flow, re-reading, editing, and structuring. This premise was quite different.
Maddy instructed us to pick three ribboned labels out of a glass jar. We’d then enter into three rounds of free-writing practice, each lengthening in time. From 10 seconds, to 30 seconds, to one minute.
The words I selected were Simple, Time, And Self. One adjective, and two abstract nouns; infinitive possibility and finite time to create.
A major positive to the workshop was the wonderful, open, and encouraging group dynamic. Everyone shared their pieces, taking it in turns to read aloud. My absolute favourite was a wonderful piece by Elizabeth Cairns, who runs the blog, The Joyful Mum.
Her key-word was ‘window’. Here is what she wrote in just 30 seconds.
I look through the window, what do I see?
A beautiful little girl looking back at me.
She has a sad face and auburn hair, I’ve no idea really why she’s there.
She told me one that she loved it so…standing at the window looking at the snow.
She’s held inside by the pane of glass and the pain in my heart that lasts and lasts.
This little girl, who can it be?
Is she a reflection…is she me?
My Free-Writing Pieces
As someone that is quite confident with my writing, I was eager to let my mind and hand connect and create freely.
I was pleasantly surprised with the philosophical, inquisitive form of my pieces.
Of course, as a perfectionist the concept of publishing unedited writing is not something I’d ever do. But I wanted to share my pieces with you. They have their flaws and won’t win any awards, but it captures that moment, that snapshot in time where my mind, body, heart, and openness connected.
Simple | 10 Seconds
Is simple a description, command, insult, or aspiration? Do we strive towards simple, start from it, or unintentionally complicate it?
Time | 30 Seconds
Time is a construct – it’s both infinite, and finite – constructed by endless boundaries, tick-tocking into one another.
No matter whether we acknowledge it, measure it, ignore it, or try to stretch it – time marches on uniformly, unbendingly, unforgivingly.
But you can run out time, have too much, not have any, have it heal you, make you forget or forgive, or even tell you an answer – time will tell.
Self | 60 Seconds
Self is what you start with and end with.
But between the start and the finish (and beyond) – do we remain continuously connected?
In common consciousness, we’re selfish if we think of ourselves, and selfless if we don’t.
Where is ‘self’? – we can ‘find’ it, and ‘lose’ it, and not ‘feel’ ourselves.
So we strive or remember to be at one with ourselves. Is that a destination or journey? Is it the process of connecting the elements and intentions around us with happiness and balance? Why is it that we have to escape and quieten the outside world to hear and feel what should be closest to us at all times – your ‘self’?
I strive to be myself, know myself, listen to myself, trust myself, love myself, forgive myself, free myself.
Why is it most struggle to describe, or begin to talk about themselves? Why is it so difficult? We don’t know ourselves or what it means to truly pin-point self in amongst the rocky seas of expectation, possession, structure, time, caring for others, accountability.
Who am I to myself? Who am I to others? Who are you?
Free-writing is deeply reflective, revealing, vulnerable, and liberating.
Truly allowing yourself to write without judgement of yourself can help you reveal and solve issues, thoughts, areas of yourself you may not have drawn due attention to.
It certainly rounded off the workshop for me by bringing a high sense of purpose, focus and openness to the coming year.
So what is my intention for the year?
Inspired by my three words, I will strive to:
- Not over-complicate things and strip thoughts, feelings, and occurrences back to their most simple form in order to maintain a long-term focus
- To respect time. I often want to rush or pre-empt things. I will strive to let certain things fall into place, and play out as they should over time, and trust the process
- To make time for self-development, and to draw conscious attention to oneness and stillness.
What practices have you tried that open the mind and heart up to reflection and exploration? I’d love to hear what works for you, or what you’d like to try in future…